MapCarte 97/365: Lightning Strikes vs Lottery Wins by 422 South, 2014


Click the image to see the animation on Vimeo

Beautifully crafted cinematic quality visualisations tend to be used to map data that flows. Typically, we see movement of cars, planes, ships, migratory patterns of animals and the development of spatial datasets (e.g. OpenStreetmap) using these techniques. The medium is well suited to flow data and allows us to do what static cartography cannot – actually show the way in which goods, commodities, ideas and a wide range of phenomena traverse space.

Here though, 422 South have taken the same approach and applied it to events that occur at a single point is space but at different times. At first sight a map that shows the location of lottery wins alongside the location of lightning strikes seems obscure. Of course, one bears no relationship with the other and there is very little reason for them to be mapped together. The point, though, is to contrast good luck (lottery wins) against bad luck (lightning strikes). A typical approach for this sort of data would be to just map all the locations at once but instead, the animated approach allows the temporal aspect to be represented.

Lottery wins are displayed as proportional symbols with the circle size relative to the size of the win. The symbols are outlines with a hollow fill so they overlap neatly without obscuring information as events are added to the map cumulatively. Lightning strikes do not persist on the map – they appear as flashes. The life-changing persistence of one event and the fleeting impact of another is well matched by the mapped representation that reflects the character of the events. The satellite image of The Netherlands sits well across the muted basemap and transparency and camera position are used well during the animation.

Animation works well and shows us the regular pulse of lottery wins juxtaposed with the rather more random incidence and prevalence of lightning strikes. Overall, a novel way of animating data that does not in itself move but one wonders if at any point lightning struck twice and resulted in a nearby lottery win!